Tuesday, November 2, 2010

India-China Cooperation

The twists and turns in China-India relationship show no signs of disappearing in the near future. It is, however, equally necessary not to let these complications exceed a certain limit. Some progress might be made in this direction with the meeting between Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Hanoi on 29 October.

Dr Singh and Jiabao have met 10 times in the last six years, as the Chinese leader observed when the two met. That is a high metric even for top leaders of neighboring countries. On each occasion there has been a degree of feel-good, considering that relations between Asia’s two biggest countries and fastest rising economies -- which also leave a mark on the world stage -- are not wrinkle-free. And yet, it is apparent to all that the frequency of contact hasn’t lent itself to the two countries moving to a stage of easy give-and-take in ties.

Common Interests
The Chinese prime minister will visit India in December. In order to make this visit a success, it is important to reduce the misgivings of the two countries. India and China are neighbors. Both are members of alliances like BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China). They have common interests in matters like environment and world trade. They also work together in these fields. At the same time, it is also true that the two countries compete in economic and several foreign affairs, especially in spreading their influence in areas like East Asia and Africa. The old border dispute between India and China is yet to be solved. This often creates bitterness.

Dr Singh went ahead and raised all the troubling questions in the bilateral relationship that have surfaced of late -- China’s adopting a forward position in respect of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), its questioning of India’s sovereignty in Kashmir suggested by stapling -- not stamping, which is the international norm -- of visas for Jammu and Kashmir residents, Beijing’s offer of a stapled visa for a general who commands India’s Northern Army, (which had the effect of scuttling the military officer’s visit to China on a goodwill defense visit earlier this year), and the revival by Beijing of its claims over Arunachal Pradesh (after the Indian state had been officially shown as being part of India during the term of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee).

Exploring Possibilities
India intends to explore these possibilities as much as it can. Such joint efforts will help all countries to overcome poverty and backwardness quickly. Distrust and suspicion between India and China obstruct any progress in this direction. Even the dispute between India and Pakistan has been kept alive to a large extent on China's support.

China certainly completes with India in the economic field, but it also has problems with Indian democracy. Modern China has had a dictatorial form of government for more than 60 years. Having adopted a liberal economy, it is now going through difficulties of introducing a liberal political system. Prime Minister Jiabao had to face severe criticism from conservative forces for advocating such a system.

Lack of Equilibrium
Chinese are afraid that a close friendship with a big democratic country like India might create an urge for democracy in the country. Suppressed dissatisfaction and lack of equilibrium might come out in the open.
The other problem faced by China is that democratic Western countries and Japan pin hopes on India rather than on China's monopolistic economic strength. India is trying not to let these issues come in the way of mutual relationship, but China has its own reasons for being apprehensive.

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